The filmmaker who profiled whistleblower Edward Snowden is suing the US government over multiple searches, interrogations, and detentions she was subjected to at various airports. Over the course of six years, Laura Poitras was searched, interrogated, and detained more than 50 times at US and foreign airports.
Meanwhile, her Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to her systemic targeting has gone unanswered by the feds.
In a complaint filed on Monday afternoon, Poitras demanded that the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Office of the Director of National Security release any and all documentation pertaining to her tracking, targeting, and questioning while traveling between 2006 and 2012.
“I’m filing this lawsuit because the government uses the US border to bypass the rule of law,” Poitras said in a statement released to the Intercept, which she co-founded with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill.
She said she hopes to draw attention to how other people, who are not as well known, “are also subjected to years of Kafkaesque harassment at the borders.”
The US government started tracking Poitras in 2006, when she was working on the documentary film “My Country, My Country,” the story of the Iraq War told from the perspective of an Iraqi doctor.
Poitras, who has never been charged with a crime, was nonetheless assigned the highest “threat rating” possible by DHS.
She said the government inspected and seized her notebooks, laptop, cellphone, and other personal. One time, airport security prohibited her from taking notes on her interrogation, saying that her pen could be used as a weapon.
When Snowden decided to leak documents revealing details about US and UK surveillance programs, he chose Poitras and Greenwald to receive the data. Poitras won an Academy Award in 2014 for her documentary about Snowden, called “Citizenfour,” and shared the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for public service.
In 2013, Poitras filed a Freedom of Information Act request for any information that the government used to determine that she was a danger to national security and warranted rigid surveillance. Attorney David Sobel, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing Poitras, told the Intercept: “The well-documented difficulties Ms. Poitras experienced while traveling strongly suggest that she was improperly targeted by federal agencies as a result of her journalistic activities.” He further said, “Those agencies are now attempting to conceal information that would shed light on tactics that appear to have been illegal. We are confident that the court will not condone the government’s attempt to hide its misconduct under a veil of ‘national security.'”